Beirut based product designer Thomas Trad founded his studio in 2016, after graduating from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martin’s university. His work with world renowned studios Fredrikson Stallard and Michael Anastasiades revealed his meticulous approach to materials and fascination with manufacturing processes, a direction which is prevalent in his practice.
Thomas reveals his aesthetic sensibilities through furniture in the expression of a style that is both poetic and structured, lyrical and architectural, where organic shapes meet abstract forms. While conceiving his growing collection, Thomas adopts an experimental approach to materials, at same time questioning existing conventions in their use. The French ‘cannage’ incorporated in his ‘EVA’ partition is in stark contrast with the constructivist frame, which falls within the lines of his ethos in stylistic nonconformity and presents a refreshing perspective on design. Each of his creations join together an unexpected approach to manufacturing processes with fine workmanship of traditional crafts.
Thomas continuously works on refining his techniques, in his search for the unexpected in contemporary design. His future projects will involve larger scale work and further discovery of new materials, sealing his reputation as one of the key emerging designers in Beirut.
Can you recall how or why you became a designer/ maker?
I can’t really recall a specific time in my life when I decided to become a designer, I think it was always following me around without me really noticing it. Since I was a kid I was fascinated by how things were made and I loved dismantling electronic gadgets and putting them back together. I guess this grew into something a lot more meaningful over time.
What originally made you want to study product design?
I actually started university studying interior design with the intention of making my own furniture one day. Sadly, back then in Beirut there was no product design courses and I never knew that this could be my primary direction. It’s only when I moved to London to pursue further education in architecture that I found out about a BA in product design. I didn’t hesitate one second to drop my previous classes and apply for Product design.
Are there any particular aspects of your background and upbringing that have shaped your design principles?
A strong part of my love for design came from my father who owned a design shop and was a maker himself, he used to restore old wooden furniture every Sunday afternoon and I loved watching him sand and varnish wood. He used to constantly talk about his products with so much attention, always showing me new and beautiful pieces, teaching me about aesthetics, refinement and perfection.
Overall, what would you say is your strongest asset, and how have you developed that skill over time?What characteristics does Beirut have that makes it both challenging and rewarding for a product designer?
It may sound a bit odd but it’s visualising objects in 3D in my mind. I find that inspiration can come at any given moment, that is why I always keep a sketch book near my bed. At times, before I go to sleep I close my eyes and design in my mind, reshape things, choose the materials, see how things fit together. I feel my process of creating is not necessarily constricted to my desk, something I have quickly learned in the past year.
What characteristics does Beirut have that makes it both challenging and rewarding for a product designer?
On one hand its challenging because of the relatively small size of the market and the overall novelty of design as a creative field, on the other its rewarding to see it grow day by day. Also, its highly rewarding to discover all the skilled craftsmen in the region and collaborate with them on making my sketches into a final product; one of the most satisfying feelings I know.
As your work is grounded in exploring materials and manufacturing processes, are there any particular materials that you hope to work with?
I would like to get the opportunity to work with all categories of materials and find unexpected ways that they can relate to one another, from noble materials like marble or wood, to 3D printed metallic structure. I’m always willing to try something new with a material I never used before and depart from its traditional treatment.
How do you want your studio to evolve in the coming years?
Being considered as an avant-garde studio, I don’t want my work to be defined by a specific trend or contemporary movement in design, I want each collection to be completely different from the previous one, bringing something unique to my clients. In the years to come I would also love to see the studio delve into the architectural sphere as well.
What would be the ideal project at this stage of your career?
I feel that designing a public space, be it a bar, restaurant or a public library, it could really highlight my aesthetic and design sensibilities. This kind of undertaking with its challenges and scale, will really push me immerse myself fully in my work.
Is there a new skill or technique you would like to learn?
I would like to push my boundaries around woodworking even further, designing around ‘the road less travelled by’ in the types of wood or its specific treatment.
What are you passionate about and how does it feed into your work?
I am truly passionate about the process of discovering innovative manufacturing techniques and applying it to my own practice. Building this bridge between cutting edge technology or even traditional crafts and my own style is what drives me most. On a different note, I am also very passionate about cooking, but I am not so sure how it feeds into my work.